LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Arkansans are pleading for more Medicaid access on the State Capitol steps Thursday.

It is a problem members of Arkansas Community Organizations said they have dealt with for months, and the citizens are calling on the Governor and Arkansas Department of Human Services for change.

The group discussed a report based on 400 surveys of Medicaid recipients in Arkansas.  The surveys were collected in 2022 and include responses from people in Washington, Pulaski, Jefferson, and a few other counties.

Several of the attendees at Thursday’s protest touched on their concerns with their benefits being cut, or issues they are having accessing their benefits.

Benefits have changed, in part, due to the Public Health Emergency period ending this year. Governor Sarah Sanders also has put a plan in place for a work requirement for Medicaid enrollees.

We spoke with one woman, Joyce Means, who said her benefits have been cut back because of qualifications and the PHE ending. She, and others, are calling on Arkansas to expand eligibility for Medicaid recipients.

A spokesperson for DHS provided a letter to KARK 4 News that was sent to ACO back in April. The letter touched on specific concerns brought up by the ACO, and it addressed their reasonings behind each topic.

Regarding expanding eligibility, the letter said,

“Income eligibility – the federal poverty level – is set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. States do not have flexibility to make across-the-board changes to eligibility ceiling and asset limits to all programs, but we would welcome Arkansas Community Organizations’ feedback on specific program limits that you believe should be addressed.”

Regarding the Public Health Emergency, the letter said,

“We also received your letter dated March 24, which mentioned providing an eligibility grace period of a year after the PHE ends. The six-month timeframe for redetermining the eligibility of beneficiaries whose coverage was extended due to the PHE is set by state law and not by DHS policy. We are required to complete these redeterminations within that six-month period.”

The letter also encourages anyone with concerns to reach out or continue reaching out to DHS for assistance. The Secretary, Kristi Putnam, said she encourages continued dialogue to determine most efficient avenues for Medicaid access.